Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Disenchantments

Publisher: Penguin (Dutton)
Pages: 307

Publication Date: February 16, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.


I could say something deep. Something about love and epiphanies and  growing up and being a teenager on the brink of everything just wondering what the fuck you're going to do with this whole entire life.  

But I don't want to say that.  Here's what I want to say:

Nina LaCour has the most honest writing I've ever read.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Black City

Publisher: Penguin (Putnam)
Pages: 373

Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Type: ARC, won

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable--they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash's long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they're caught, they'll be executed--but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.


Similarly to its fellow Breathless Read, Origin, Black City had a lot to love and a lot to hate.  There were a number of things I enjoyed, and a number of things that put a bit of a damper on my reading experience.

It certainly wasn't a bad read.  Some of the concepts were exceptionally unique; despite having many marks of a typical dystopian or vampire novel, Richards took a new spin on a lot of the classics, and I enjoyed watching her world unfold.  The treatment of the Darklings was strongly reminiscent of the Holocaust, but the differences between these two events raised quite a few moral questions.  Because the Darklings are a legitimate threat, does that in any way excuse the despicable treatment?  Do you want the walls to come down, knowing it could end in a human massacre?

There were also a few very genuine moments that touched me, quite unexpectedly.  Oftentimes these occurred between family members, which was perhaps even better; there aren't enough complex familial relationships in a lot of YA fiction today.

And, deep matters aside, one of the greatest things about Black City is that it's what reviewers like to call "intensely readable."  Despite the plot not really picking up until about two thirds of the way in, I never found myself bored.  I wanted to read on, wanted to unravel the mysteries and see what would happen next in this dark, horrifying world.  

Unfortunately, despite its readability, Black City was still a let down in more ways than one.  The writing could best be described as . . . amateur.  It's somewhat understandable, considering this is Richards's debut novel, and there's definitely potential--throughout the novel, there were the occasional flashes of brilliance.  But the overall quality of writing was lower than I expect from a published novel.  

And that leads to my second issue, which is that the characters simply weren't real or likable.  Both their dialogue and actions were awkward and cheesy, more like caricatures than three-dimensional, believable people.   Not even likable caricatures at that.  They were at turns bratty, petty, idiotic, cruel, and a bunch of other negative adjectives that I'm too lazy to list.  I don't mind flawed characters when it's acknowledged that they aren't exactly the greatest of people, but I was supposed to believe that these guys were just the shit, and I couldn't buy it.  

Despite my troubles with the characterization, if the romance--the main plot of the novel--had developed nicely, over a logical period of time, I might have learned to love them.  Unfortunately, the dreaded insta-love struck once again in the form of--wait for it--soul mates. (Soul mates, Blood Mates, close enough.)  The time-tested excuse for a complete lack of any real connection or chemistry.  At one point, Ash tries to give a dramatic speech about why he really loves Natalie, y'know, for her, and all he can come up with are her annoying/endearing physical habits, because there is absolutely nothing between them but mystical lust and pretty words.

While most of this review would seem to indicate a strong distaste for the novel, the fact of the matter is that, when it comes down to it, I enjoyed this book.  Some parts of it irritated me to no end, but it was a quick, entertaining read, and I know many will like it far more than I.  Three stars for enjoyment.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Clockwork Prince

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McEldberberry Books)
Pages: 502

Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Type: Hardcover, bought

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
I didn't cry, but I was close.
Man, I really did not expect it to be the love triangle.  Deceit, imminent death, actual death, end of the world, those I was prepared for.  I didn't think the love triangle was the heart-breaker.
And that, that right there, is probably why it's so completely and utterly fantastic.  So often, love triangles are simply a plot device.  Something to cause drama, waste pages.  And often, it's clear from the start who's the favored of the two.  One of the reasons I'd never been a fan of the TMI love triangle was that it's so painfully obvious.  Clary never cared for Simon that way. It was always Jace.  Without question.
But that's not the case here.  That's not the case here, and it never will be, because Tessa loves them both so, so much, and they love her as much if not more, and they love each other, making this one of the few true love triangles in existence.  Perhaps they don't love each other that way, but it doesn't really matter, does it? Because it's still the cause of all the heartbreak.  There was no real sadness in the love triangle of TMI--Simon wanders merrily into his new love dilemmas, Jace and Clary have their happily ever after, etc. etc.   
And we all know that can't happen here.
Because they both love her, but they both love each other so much that they could never willingly cause one another harm; that they'll sacrifice their own happiness for one another, even if it means everything.
Unlike so many love triangles, there is no happy ending to be found here. Either way the scale tips, everyone's hearts will be crushed, and mine will go with them.  It's a horribly sad thought, to be honest; that no matter how Tessa ends this story, she and her partner will be haunted by the memory of a third. There's no simple happily-ever-afters  in a love triangle as real or painful as this, and as much as it kills me, kills them, I applaud Cassie Clare for that. I applaud her.
I'm going to be crying in Clockwork Princess. That I can assure you.
5 stars.
P.S. I didn't think she could excuse the assholian behavior, but she did it, goddamnit. She did it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cold Fury Giveaway Winner

Apologies for the lateness!  I've been away at a summer program, but that's no excuse--I should've made this post a while ago.  In any case, the winner of an ARC of Cold Fury is . . .

Alexis N.!

Lexi, e-mail me at with your address.  Thank you to everyone who entered!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Clockwork Angel

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. McEldberberry Books)
Pages: 479

Publication Date: August 31, 2010
Type: Paperback, bought

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. 

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own. 

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.


I'll be frank with you all.  Our air-conditioning broke.  It is hot as fuck, I'm sweating balls, I got two hours of sleep last night, the dogs are throwing a fit, and I do not, in any universe, have the attention span to write a long, thoughtful review.  So this will be concise.

A number of people whose opinions I trust told me that if I enjoyed the Mortal Instruments series, even as simply cheap entertainment, I would probably enjoy these novels even more.  Well, they were right.  The plotting is better, the writing is better (FOR ONCE, NOT A SIMILE EVERY OTHER PARAGRAPH!), and the characterization is better.  Tessa is an improvement on Clary, though I can't say I'm necessarily her hugest fan, and the love triangle is a million times better because there's no petty hatred between the boys.  Will and Jem love each other, and I think that's fantastic.  

Of course, to compensate for that, Will is a million times more assholian on a regular basis.  I know many dislike Jace for that same reason, but he had enough charm, genuine kindness, and vulnerability that I could make up for his occasional bite.  Will was funny, yes, attractive, yes, but flat-out cruel, and I simply don't understand how Tess could like him better than Jem--still funny, still attractive, ridiculously kind.  It just doesn't compute.

Anyways, love interests aside, I really enjoyed this; and, unlike TMI, I don't feel guilty for it.  I have nitpicks--some plot points were very predictable, some writing was a wee bit awkward, etc. etc.--but for the most part, this is an impressive novel.  Onto CP!

4 stars.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Publisher: Penguin (Razorbill)
Pages: 372

Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Type: ARC, won

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost. This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost.


I wanted to love this, and there was a lot to love, but there was also a lot to stop me from really falling for this novel.

On the one hand, there are many things to commend:  

It's clear Khoury did very extensive research; she didn't just decide, oh, well, I think a jungle would be all cool and mysterious. She researched it very thoroughly, and it shows.  

As part of the Breathless Reads, this is labeled Breathless Beauty, and I can see why.  At times, the writing was exceptionally beautiful; dramatic or poignant or just plain enchanting.  

While some of the mysteries verged on predictable, they were enough of a pull to keep me turning the pages well into the early hours of the morning, and some of their reveals were genuinely horrifying.  They made for a very intriguing, very complex plot.

And as several blurbs and the synopsis itself imply, at times, this is very introspective.  It did genuinely make me think, and I love when a book can do that.

But despite all of that, there were just too many things that soured my reading experience.  There's insta-love at its finest; though they don't kiss till the very end, there's dramatic declarations of love and I-can't-live-without-you's within days of knowing each other.  I'm sorry, but that's not love, that's You're attractive and different and I think we should swap saliva.  I might have been slightly more forgiving of it if I'd really adored Eio, but . . . I didn't.  He was cheesy, melodramatic, and occasionally misogynistic.  He had his moments, but he never really found a place in my heart.  

Also, I could never tell exactly what sort of significance the romance was supposed to have.  It was as though Khoury couldn't decide whether she wanted it to be a side plot or the main story line; even after finishing, I'm still not entirely sure which it is.

Along with the heavy dose of insta-love, there were also a number of other problems.  The dialogue was exceptionally unrealistic.  Certain parts were so forced and melodramatic that I could only cringe.  While the writing could be beautiful, at times it grew awkward and juvenile.  Pia was sometimes really fantastic, but most of the time she was very naive, wishy-washy, and oblivious. And all the villains of this piece were painfully one-dimensional.  That was perhaps the most disappointing, because I think with this concept there's the potential to create exceptionally complex villains and raise some very morally ambiguous questions, but all of the antagonists were just . . . bad. Plain and simple.  The novel was a field of black and white, without a shade of gray to be seen.  The evil scientists vs. the moral natives.  I wanted some more depth.

Overall, this novel was enjoyable, but there were just a few too many things dragging it down.  However, I think Jessica Khoury has a boatload of potential, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for any future novels.

2.5 stars.